This year is my son Doug’s 50th reunion for Wissahickon High School in Ambler, Pa. It’s also the same year our family moved west. Doug would love to attend, but it doesn’t appear he’ll be able to go.
We sat talking this morning, as we ate our eggs and toast, about earlier times in life we remember so vividly. Not those special moments that everybody recall, but those that would be called, perhaps, mundane or ordinary, days that define just who and what we are.
A little later Doug was making himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I just had to smile. I’d be a wealthy woman if I had a dollar for every one of those I’ve made over the last oh so many years; however, I remember vividly one of those special early 1960s days in our home in Ambler when a friend had called to tell me she was getting married.
This sweet woman had lost tragically lost her first husband. To see her so very happy again was a joy. It was raining, one of those “back east” kind of rains that last far too long, and my five sons, and friends — home for the long summer days — were stuck inside and restless. Now as a good mother, what do we do on those kinds of days? We make fudge.
It’s easy to look back to those days, visualizing my three youngest sons flopped down on the floor of what we called our den, watching TV with friends. In the dining room sat my two oldest sons with the Romano brothers as they played cards or Monopoly or some other card game. The real action, however, was in the kitchen where teenage neighbor Kathy Maycourt stood looking down at the fudge bubbling away on the stove.
Everybody could smell the cupcakes I had baking in the oven. The clock was pushing noon. Kathy and the Romano brothers didn’t need permission to stay for lunch.
I had son David’s friend call his mom to get an okay, which he did. Now all we had to do was decide on peanut butter and jelly, or baloney and cheese to add to the ever-present Kool-aid. Young kids have to eat.
As usual I had to remind Kathy that the fudge wasn’t just ready yet. The temperature wasn’t right yet, and we didn’t want another batch of “eat with a spoon” fudge like the last time when she had been certain it was ready and it hadn’t been. Kathy, like most teenaged daughters back then, was anxious to show her ability to cook. That’s if you think making fudge is really cooking?
Out came a couple of loaves of bread. Friends I had five boys, I always had at least a couple of loaves of bread ready in the pantry. We did the usual what do you want and got busy putting lunch together. Outside the rain did one of those let’s see how fast and furious we could slam into the side of the house. The kids watching cartoons, or an old movie didn’t seem to notice.
Rick Romano yelled “hoorah” because he’d won a hand of something or other. Just then the rain went back to its’ usual slow crescendo. The kids were all eating in the dining room or kitchen table as I got the cupcakes out of the oven. We also began beating the fudge into submission. It seems mothers are supposed to eat last. I’m not a PB and J person, so I had baloney and cheese instead.
Years later in 1964 when we’d just resettled in Santa Barbara, Calif., I received a precious letter from a young boy who told me how sorry he was that we moved away. He said he’d always loved to come to our house and feel so at home. I remember him vaguely. He was the very quiet one who always stayed in the background. We had lots of neighborhood kids visiting in our 100-year-old house over those years.
It made me a very happy mother to know that our humble abode had become just that – home – to somebody. That young man would be in his sixties now, and we don’t hear much, of course, from the other “kids” except Rick Romano, Doug’s best friend.
But this old lady, for some reason, will always remember that rainy day in that big old house with those kids who were such a big part of my life.
Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer.